Darkroom/Developing Film

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Loading film into the development tank

You will need

  • Developing tank with both lids (screw on and watertight).
  • One film spiral reel per film to be developed, plus spares to make up the space.
  • Central column
  • Scissors
  • Light tight bag
  • Developer
  • Fixer
  • Water
  • Sink
  • (optional) Film leader puller

All of the steps below involving loading film into the light tight developing tank are completed in total darkness, or inside a special light tight changing bag. Ensure that you have loaded all of the required components into the light tight bag before you start.

It is not possible to develop black and white or colour film under safelight conditions.

  1. Open the film canister by pulling apart the felt where the film leader usually pokes out. Find the leader and pull it out.
  2. Cut off the tongue of the leader so that it has a square end. The tongue is the thinner part at the start of the film.
  3. Touching only the end of the leader, guide the film onto the spiral reel and over the ball bearings. Use the slightly wider guides to help you find where to start. Grease from your fingers can affect development so be careful where you touch.
  4. Wind the film onto the spiral reel by twisting one side back and forth until all the film is on and the canister is held up against the spiral.
  5. Cut the canister off at a right. Wind on the remaining few turns.
  6. Insert the central column through the spiral. Ensure that spirals with film on are at the bottom of the tank.
  7. Fit the light tight lid securely.

The film is now safely in the developing tank and you can remove the tank from the changing bag.

Mixing chemicals

Black and white chemistry is not fussy - nearly any B&W developer will work on nearly any B&W film with reasonable results. Certain changes will need to be made though, such as development times and dilutions.

Each developer has its own characteristics however - some are very fat working and others produce very fine grain in the film. Others reduce the effective speed of the film, so it's important to choose the right tool for the job.

The temperature of the chemistry you use is critical - especially at the Hackspace where the temperature can fluctuate wildly and drop into single figures. Ilford has a handy temperature compensation chart that you should refer to, adjusting times as necessary.

Each film requires 300 ml of working solution for each process. For example, if your developer is to be mixed at 1:9 (1 part concentrate, 9 parts water) then you should use 30 ml of developer concentrate to 270 ml of water.

If your fixer requires a dilution of 1:4 (1 part concentrate, 4 parts water) then you will need 60 ml of concentrate and 240 ml of water.

Individual developers and fixers will vary so be sure to check the instructions for each one.

Developing the film

You will need

  • Developer solution
  • Stop solution
  • Fix solution
  • Water and a sink
  • Film hanger clips

Find the perfect combination of developer, film and development time by using the Massive Dev Chart.

  1. Fill the tank with water, agitate for a few seconds and pour out.
  2. Pour the developer into the tank and fit the lid securely. Agitate for the first 30 seconds by inverting the tank then tap sharply on the desk to dislodge any air bubbles when setting it down.
  3. Every minute turn the tank over 3 times and tap it sharply. Do this for the duration of indicated for the combination of film, film speed and developer.
  4. Once the time is up, dump out the chemicals into the capture tank. Wash the development tank with running water for a minute or so.
  5. (Optional) Stop the development process with stop solution. Do this if you are planning on reusing the fixer solution.
  6. Pour the fixer into the tank and leave for the time period indicated on the fixer instructions, agitating for the first 30 seconds then every minute afterwards.
  7. Once the time is up, dump out the chemicals into the capture tank. Wash the development tank with running water for a minute or so, dumping out the water periodically.
  8. You can now open the development tank and take a look at your film! Don't take it off the spiral yet though.
  9. Continue washing the film for at least five minutes before you take it off the spiral and hang it up to dry.

Leave the film to dry until there are absolutely no wet spots. Ensure that you weight the bottom with another clip to stop it from curling up. Don't use the film squeegee in an attempt to dry your film faster - you will scratch your film!